Letters to the editor

Empire right to report corporate ties

Posted: Thursday, October 05, 2000

Thank you for your report on Jamie Parsons' corporate ties, as well as those of Sally Smith and Patty Zimmerman.

I thought the article was exceedingly fair and gave Mr. Parsons full opportunity to explain his relationship to Holland America in his own words. It clearly showed that the position was largely voluntary, and explored the issue in all its aspects. In my opinion, Mr. Parsons' relationship with Holland America falls into a gray area that, while perfectly legal, should be exposed to voters when Mr. Parsons is seeking public office. I strongly disagree with the logic put forward by the letters that attacked the Empire for bringing these facts to light. If other elected officials such as Fran Ulmer and Dennis Egan held similar positions, it does not make it OK for Mr. Parsons, as some letter-writers suggest. Rather, it means that we should take a closer look at all potential conflicts. What critics seem to be saying is: Why couldn't the Empire just turn a blind eye, the way it always has?

I am not implying that this is the case with Mr. Parsons, but it's important to recognize that payments can take the form of information, business patronage, political donations and other favors. That's why any potential conflict of interest should be brought to light by the candidates themselves.

I have lived in Juneau 18 years and the talk of an "old boy network" has persisted along with gossip about hidden ties between businesses and local government. In my opinion, this is based on a loose set of common interests shared by many building trades people, real-estate investors or agents and other business people. Rather than a strict quid pro quo. Often this comes to the surface in murky sweetheart deals granted by the planning commission and the assembly, but these deals are almost always oblique, complex and completely legal, and the Empire has generally reported them in a superficial way.

The disclosure of Jamie Parsons' relationship with Holland America belongs exactly where it showed up: On the front page of the Empire. It wouldn't surprise me if calls have already been made to Georgia to complain about printing such unneighborly things in the newspaper.

Thank you for not simply looking the other way. An inquiring press is critical to a free society.

Stuart Cohen


Cohen is the author of an upcoming novel , "The Book of Rumor," which he describes as the story of the 1935 strike by A-J miners and the attempts by the mine's owner, Juneau city officials and the owner of the Empire to break the strike.

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